1. When it comes to the culinary scene at Canyons Resort, you’re the man. Give us the rundown: name, title, length of term at Canyons, where you’re from?
Name – John Murcko. I grew up in Michigan, but was first exposed to fine dining when my Dad would take me to great restaurants in New York City when he was on business. While I prefer to keep it simple with Chef, my title is Vice President and Executive Chef. I’ve been here at Talisker and Canyons for about six years – although I’ve been in Park City for about 20.
2. Where did you go to culinary school? And was it fun to be able to eat your homework and projects when you were finished?
I went to The Culinary Institute of America. It was really intense – but it’s where I truly knew I wanted to be a chef for a living.
3. I call you Chef, but your title has a VP and Executive Chef in it. What’s the difference?
I guess the “VP” in me oversees all of the business operations from staffing to marketing. The Executive Chef gets to work with each kitchen, each chef and his crew. I also consider my food sourcing part of my “chef” hat – as I work with more than 30 farmers and purveyors in Utah.
4. I’m curious; did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a Chef?
Well, first I wanted to be a maitre d’. I thought they had the coolest job. But once I started working for a small family restaurant in northern Michigan, I knew I wanted to be in the kitchen!
5. Cyclists have their favorite bikes. Do chefs have their favorite pan, appliance, or utensil?
I love cast iron pans. But now that you mention it, I’d much rather talk about my bike. I have two “ancient” bikes made by legendary frame maker Chris Chance. They were made under the Fat Chance brand – one is a Yo Eddy! Model. I think I’m due for a new one with all of the innovation in components.
6. Ok, it’s time to get real. Considering more than a dozen food and beverage outlets at Canyons, what is your favorite menu item?
Really, Joe? You’re going to put me on the spot like that? OK. I love “stick-to-your-rib” comfort foods – so The Farm’s Oxtail Beef Onion Soup on a cold day, plus either Mountain Valley trout or Bison Osso Bucco and a fabulous dessert make for a pretty good meal. Oh – and whatever sommelier Sean Marron recommends for wine!
7. As patrons, we get the pleasure of tasting a well planned and thought out menu. Take us through the menu creation process. How does it work?
It usually involves a couple of chefs, a concept or two and a bottle of wine. Then we start brainstorming. Once we have some ideas, we repeat it in our kitchen and see how it turns out. Then we tweak… endlessly. A menu is never “complete” – it always evolves as ingredients change (we want to use the freshest food possible) and the tastes of our chefs and our customers evolve.
8. The Farm continues to receive accolades left and right. Tell us a little about the idea behind The Farm and what it is about The Farm that people love so much.
Two years ago, Talisker on Main had opened and everyone seemed to like it. The idea was to create a different restaurant – at Canyons – that could develop a loyal following, serve innovative cuisine and be the best destination for après ski given its location at Ski Beach. We had been building our relationships with purveyors and felt that the Utah farming community had grown substantial enough to warrant a true “farm-to-table” restaurant. We worked with our farmers to be able to provide certain ingredients regularly and, suffice it to say, we’ve been thrilled with the result.
9. Do you ski or snowboard?
I telemark. And have for 20 years!
10. Word around town is that you’re an avid cyclist. What’s the coolest bike trip you’ve ever taken?
I did a loop in southeastern Utah, from the Green River area down to Arizona, up by Lake Powell, through the National Parks and back to Escalante. It took weeks – but I’ll never forget it! Oh, and it may not be a trip, but I’m signed up to ride the Park City Point 2 Point mountain bike race in September.
Food for thought: Chef Murcko has helped feed over 3 million people since joining Talisker.